Jorge Ruiz, Pioneer of Bolivian Documentary Filmmaking, Dies at 88


Filmmaker Jorge Ruiz (pictured), one of Bolivia’s foremost documentary filmmakers, died in Cochabamba today at the age of 88. Born in Sucre in 1924, he studied Agronomy in Argentina where he started to experiment with an 8mm camera. He got his first break in cinema in 1947 when he was hired by American Kenneth Wassan to work at his film company. In 1949 he worked with Augusto Roca to make Donde nació un imperio, Bolivia’s first color film.

In 1953 he directed Vuelve Sebastiana, his most well known film, about a young indigenous Andinian girl. John Grierson declared in 1958 that Ruiz was "one of the six most important documentary filmmakers." Between 1957 and 1960 he was the director of the Bolivian Film Institute (Instituto Cinematográfico Boliviano). He lived abroad between 1962 and 1983 living in Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador and New York City. His filmography lists a rich body of work. He also worked as a cameraman for many projects, including second camera operator for Werner Herzog's Cobra Verde (1987).

Mela Márquez, director of the Bolivian Cinematheque, recently referred to Ruiz as "the father of the Bolivian documentary film." In 1992 at the Nantes Film Festival in France, Vuelve Sebastiana was recognized as the first indigenous film made in Latin America, and Ruiz was declared the "father of indigenous Andean cinema." He was awarded the National Culture Prize in Bolivia in 2001, and the IberoAmerican Festival of Huelva, Spain paid tribute to his work with a special retrospective in 2003.